‘And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.‘ (L. Cohen)
There is an apple tree in my garden, a lovely old rambling Bramley. It is gnarled and distinguished, and for a number of years had been having diminishing returns on the apple front. It clearly had not had a good prune in a while, since long before the garden came to me to steward, so I called in someone who purported to know what he was doing with apple tree pruning and set him to work. He did a drastic job. I cried when I saw how far he had taken the tree back. It looked so empty, naked, so wounded. I had committed a tree crime. The old, loved, beautiful, noble tree was devastatingly reduced.
The worst thing was that there had been a long limb growing over my neighbour’s garden and the pruner had taken it off completely, so my neighbour could no longer share the (sadly jeopardised) apple harvest.
I felt sad, ashamed, negligent, regretful, and full of remorse and recrimination.
That was a couple of years ago years ago and the tree has recovered, somewhat. In the year of the great pruning, it weakly managed enough leaf growth to photosynthesise. It was touch and go whether it would survive, but it did. The next year there was a tiny amount of blossom and a couple of (precious) apples. This year there was more blossom and I can see more apples coming. But the tree doesn’t sprawl luxuriantly as it used to. It stands chastened. And I see my neighbours have planted an apple tree of their own, ensuring their self sufficiency of apples in the future. They are not trusting the generosity of the harvest from my garden any more.
But in spite of how incredibly, achingly regretful I feel about the whole Bramley pruning experience, I can see that it has revealed more than one vein of gold I may not have struck without it. I learned how much I love this tree, really love it, and how its life and my life are connected through that heart link. This is an incredible thing to become aware of. I did not know that until my negligence and hubris nearly destroyed this incredible being with whom I share my space. I am learning respect, and care.
Furthermore, I learned not to delegate so readily to people I do not know and with whom I have not had a lot of conversation about what matters to me, and to them. The values we live by may be different, and I have learned that I need to explore that with people. I have also learned that I want more connection with my neighbours. And now we have another apple tree in the vicinity, and I like that! Finally, I learned that apple wood fires are warm and slow and fragrant and forgiving.
Above all, and the message I want to offer here, is that the world can speak to us – wisdom can speak to us – through all events, not just the events we feel ok about. The world is alive with speech. The tree is not just a symbol, it is alive with communication. Leonard Cohen, as he so often does, puts it beautifully….
‘There’s a blaze of light in every word
it doesn’t matter which you heard
the holy or the broken,
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my tongue but
(and here is the tree this year, and yes, that is a swarm of bees in the foreground….that is a whole other story…..!)